In the past three editions of the Pastors’ Pen I have sought to explain the statement of faith to which parents commit as they publicly declare their intention to raise their children for Christ. This is the final instalment in that series.
In the foregoing portion of this statement there has been commitment on the part of the parents to raise their children to know and to love the Lord. They have attested to the understanding that to do so is a formidable and yet not hopeless task. In fact, the commitment is rooted in a God-centred faith. After all, the heart of covenant-keeping is covenant-believing; and covenant-believing implies covenant-keeping in confidence in the covenant-keeping God. (Try to say that three times quickly!)
The reason, however, that this commitment is made publicly is because such faith-filled parents realise their need for the community of faith to aid them in this privileged stewardship of the soul of their child. This is reflected in these final paragraphs. In essence, these final statements reflect the truth that it takes a church to raise a Christian (see, for example, Ephesians 4:11-16).
We willingly invite BBC to hold us accountable to this public covenant and we undertake to respond to admonitions with humility and with a willingness to learn.
These words need to be taken very seriously both by the parents and by BBC. And let’s face it: This is a difficult responsibility. No one in their right mind enjoys confrontation. However, if we will raise a godly seed, then we need to be corrected at times as well to give correction to those in need. An attitude of humility—by both parties—is required. In other words, we parents need to be teachable and those who counsel parents need also to be teachable. Those who give counsel need to be learners (read: listeners) first before they speak (Proverbs 18:13).
We hereby commit that we will not shift the blame for any failures on our part but rather will assume the full responsibility for the spiritual outcome of __________. We will further endeavour to do all that we can to aid BBC in its biblical mandate to raise a godly seed for (at least!) a thousand generations.
This statement has been misunderstood by some and so let me try and clear up any potential confusion. For parents to “assume the full responsibility for the spiritual outcome” of their children seems a bit overstated, for, after all, “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). This is fully acknowledged. Our parental statement of faith is very strong throughout on our need to be completely dependent upon God’s grace. But at the same time the truth of human responsibility must also be acknowledged. Sadly, too many Christian parents have approached parenting as fatalists. Ironically, some parents that I know who reject the doctrines of grace, become hyper-Calvinists when it comes to the spiritual outcome of their children. They simply throw their hands in the air and say, “Well, there is nothing that we can do about it.” Excuse-making has become the order of the day by passive fathers and mothers; and so when the child rejects Christ, they assume that this is the fault of everyone else—including God—rather than themselves. This parental statement of faith simply seeks to lay the human responsibility where God lays it: on the parents (Ephesians 6:1-4; etc.).
In the light of the seriousness of this joyful task of raising __________ for God in Christ, we seek the aid of the Holy Spirit to guide us in His Word. We also ask BBC to stand with us and pledge to both walk and to work with us covenantally in the raising of a godly seed. We promise to heed the Word of the Lord from you and to seriously weigh your practical counsel in the light of Scripture.
Again, this final statement makes it very clear that the parents are relying on God’s Spirit and on the congregation as a means of grace for the raising of a godly seed. We pray and work mindful that God alone can save and we also pray and work mindful that God uses means towards this end. And with such a mindset the task of raising children to know and love the Lord becomes a joyful one indeed.
Of course such a serious request on the part of the parents needs to be seriously heeded by their church family. It is for this reason that after the parents have made such a public declaration that we, the membership of BBC, are then asked to stand with the parents and to give our heartfelt amen that we will answer their plea to help them. We will commit ourselves to get involved in the ways which they have requested. We will be willing to come alongside of them to give counsel and to aid with encouragement and practical help. And fundamentally, we also commit ourselves to pray for them and for the salvation of their child(ren).
After all, it takes a church to raise a Christian.